Rajeev Masand – movies that matter : from bollywood, hollywood and everywhere else

November 24, 2006

Cool, light and easy

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 7:55 pm

November 24, 2006

Cast: Abhishek Bachchan, Hrithik Roshan, Aishwarya Rai, Bipasha Basu, Uday Chopra

Director: Sanjay Gadhvi

Bigger and better – that’s what we’ve been promised from Dhoom 2, director Sanjay Gadhvi’s sequel to his hit 2004 entertainer.

It is a cat and mouse chase once again but in the new film, police officer Abhishek Bachchan and his faithful ally Uday Chopra are in hot pursuit of an International thief, one who steals the queen’s crown from a running train in Namibia, a coveted diamond in a Mumbai museum, and some precious coins from an archeological display in Brazil.

Straight out of those good old James Bond films, the thief in question Hrithik Roshan is a cucumber cool conman who uses everything from fancy gadgets to unique disguises to get his job done.

He finds a partner in fellow thief Aishwarya Rai with whom he’s planning a big theft, but the question is, can he trust her completely?

There’s absolutely no question about the fact that Dhoom 2 is bigger than the earlier film, packed as it is with sensational set pieces like Hrithik’s breathtaking skydive in the film’s opening scene, or that almost poetic bungee drop with Hrithik and Aishwarya, or even that thrilling bike chase in the tunnel which ends with them gliding over a helicopter’s blades.

In all fairness, it’s not just the action that’s gone four notches higher, it’s also the sheer energy of the film, and by that I mean the stunts, the gadgets, the songs, the locations, almost everything.

It’s what I call “all-stops pulled out entertainment.” The makers of this film want you to suspend your sense of disbelief and just go along for the ride, which you’re absolutely willing to do, but having said that, there are some things that are just not excusable.

I’m willing to believe that Hrithik has all these fancy gadgets like this remote-controlled robotic device that can move across the room, climb up a table and steal a heavily guarded diamond, but do you really expect me to believe that not a single person in that room would notice this remote-controlled device moving all over the place?

Not a single one of those dozens of security guards under whose feet the damn thing is moving? A bit much, don’t you think? You have to understand, if you’re modeling your film after the James Bond pictures or Mission Impossible, then you have to find a way to make the unbelievable look believable. That is the challenge.

One of the big reasons I enjoyed Dhoom 2 so much is because it’s like the ultimate wet dream.

It’s almost as if the makers of this film secretly went into the heads of young men and women, listened to their most private thoughts, their most ultimate fantasies, and then decided, “let’s give it to them.”

I mean think about it, Bipasha Basu sizzling hot in a two-piece string bikini, Aishwarya Rai in micro-mini shorts, tight tank-tops and tall boots, Hrithik and Aishwarya playing basketball in the rain in their black ganjis, and then the piece de resistence, a nice hot smooch between Hrithik and Ash even if there wasn’t any tongue involved.

In many, many ways, Dhoom 2 is a perfect example of what’s seriously wrong with big-budget Bollywood movies. Because while lots of money’s been spent on hiring big stars, making them look good in gorgeous clothes, filming at exotic locations, shooting hit songs, and designing all these breathtaking stunts and action scenes, the most basic, the most fundamental, the most vital element – the script – has been completely ignored.

The screenplay of Dhoom 2 is embarrassingly amateurish because nothing really happens in the film. Honestly, it’s just a string of fabulous action pieces, with some romance, some comedy and a few songs thrown in for good measure.

All the embellishments are in place but where’s the story? I’m going to make my favourite comparison here – you’re making a biryani and you’ve got the meat, you’ve got the spices, you’ve got the salt and the potatoes, but you forget the rice.

You can’t make biryani without the rice. And there, you can’t make a movie without a script.

Of the film’s cast, Uday Chopra as the lovable sidekick who wears his heart on his sleeve manages to raise a few laughs, but because the script doesn’t really allow him to find his feet, his jokes become repetitive and you feel like he’s got way too much screen-time than his character deserves. Perhaps the opposite is true of Bipasha Basu who oozes sex appeal without any help from the script but she’s just not given enough opportunity to make her presence felt.

Aishwarya Rai, meanwhile, is all sexed up and everything from her tan make-up to her costumes are designed with the intention to make your jaw drop. Abhishek Bachchan, sadly, doesn’t hold up but the blame for that must go to the script again for reducing him to a mere supporting player.

But if there’s one reason you must watch Dhoom 2, then that reason is Hrithik Roshan. He holds the film together and even manages to take your attention away from its many flaws. Hrithik is one of those rare actors who’s not only abundantly talented, but he’s also blessed with a presence that’s electrifying. With the grace of a dove he throws himself into the film’s many challenging stunt scenes — skydiving, sand-surfing, scuba-diving, roller-blading, bungee-jumping– and he does it all so well. Whether it’s in the action scenes, or the songs, whether he’s romancing Aishwarya or jumping off a cliff, it’s hard to take your eyes off him. He is, quite simply, the heart, the soul and the spirit of Dhoom 2.

So it’s unabashedly entertaining and it’s two-and-a-half hours well spent but I want director Sanjay Gadhvi to promise he’ll spend more time working on the script if they decide to do Dhoom 3.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

November 10, 2006

Off to wed

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 7:58 pm

November 10, 2006

Cast: Shahid Kapur, Amrita Rao, Samir Soni, Alok Nath, Seema Biswas

Director: Sooraj Barjatya

In director Sooraj Barjatya’s Vivah, 20-something Delhi boy Shahid Kapur finds himself smitten by the demure, small-town girl his father has selected for him to marry.

Drawn to her innocence and simplicity, Shahid agrees to the marriage barely moments after he’s met her at her home in Madhupur, and the young lady in question Amrita Rao seems equally floored by her charming suitor.

The marriage is fixed for six months later, and the couple find themselves in the first throes of young, budding love, their geographical distance notwithstanding.

But Amrita, who’s been raised by her uncle and her aunt after her parents’ death, is struck by a horrible calamity just hours before the marriage. And then, it’s up to Shahid to play the honourable lover and to embrace her unconditionally.

Much in the same vein as Hum Aapke Hain Koun and Hum Saath Saath Hain, Barjatya’s new film Vivahtoo is on one level a family drama with an extremely idealistic premise.

But sadly, the plot of this new film comes off looking way too outdated, even more far-fetched than those regressive Ekta Kapoor soaps. And the problem is clear – you just can’t relate to such squeaky-clean characters who don’t have one bad bone in their bodies.

There are many things that work in favour of and against Hindi films, and timing is one such important factor. Twenty-five years ago, perhaps the plot of Vivah may not have felt like such a stretch, but today it just seems like the product of a mind stuck in a time warp.

Perhaps the film’s only saving grace is the fact that it oozes sincerity from start to finish, you can make out right away that the filmmaker’s intention is not to deceive. Judging both by Barjatya’s previous films and by closely examining this new one you can safely declare that Barjatya believes in a perfect world, he believes in his good-as-gold characters, he believes that large families can live together happily under the same roof without the slightest bumps.

But alas, he’s unable to translate his vision to the screen. It’s difficult to overlook how one-dimensional his protagonists are – Shahid and Amrita, both virtuous and virginal – I mean, think about it, the first time they hold hands is an hour and twenty minutes into the film.

Barjatya may think he’s returning to his Maine Pyar Kiya roots with Vivah, but truth is that the reason we embraced Salman and Bhagyashree in that film, or even Salman and Madhuri in Hum Aapke Hain Koun is because they had such fantastic chemistry. Because although they were created out of the same mould as Shahid and Amrita in Vivah, those pairs had mischief and masti. Shahid and Amrita are just insipid and boring.

For a film that relies so heavily on music to narrate its story, the filmmaker chooses a string of 70s-style tunes that only further slacken the film’s deadening pace. But if I had to choose just one reason to explain why Vivah doesn’t work for me, it’s because I’m not sure I can relate to any of the characters who inhabit Barjatya’s story.

To some perhaps Vivah will give hope, that a perfect world like this is actually out there somewhere. But I’m a little cynical I guess.

So, give me the coquettish Madhuri of Hum Aapke Hain Kaun, give me the bratty Salman of Maine Pyar Kiya, I’ll even take that mischevious Karisma Kapoor of Hum Saath Saath Hain. But save me from these dullards.

So, that’s one out of five and no reason to smile for Sooraj Barjatya’s Vivah. You know, some marriages aren’t made in heaven. This one’s Vivaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

November 3, 2006

No jaan in it…

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 8:03 pm

November 03, 2006

Cast: Aishwarya Rai, Abhishek Bachchan, Shabana Azmi, Sunil Shetty, Divya Dutta, Puru Raaj Kumar

Director: J P Dutta

Director JP Dutta has been insisting that his new film Umrao Jaan is not a remake of Muzaffar Ali’s fabulous 1981 film starring Rekha. And truth is, he’s more or less right. Dutta’s film which opens at cinemas this week is a more faithful adaptation of Urdu author Mirza Hadi Ruswa’s novel about a young girl who’s kidnapped from her happy home in Faizabad and sold off to a brothel in Lucknow where she’s groomed to become a courtesan.

In Dutta’s film, Aishwarya Rai plays the doomed damsel who – apart from the fact that she’s got a raw deal in life, finds out that she’s unlucky in love too. She catches the fancy of dapper nawab Abhishek Bachchan, but alas their romance isn’t meant to be. As she discovers in the end, once a lonely tawaif, always a lonely tawaif.

The thing that hurts the most about JP Dutta’s Umrao Jaan is that it’s far too synthetic and as a result, you really can’t relate to Aishwarya’s pain. Not when she’s kidnappned and sold off as a little girl, not when her romance comes crashing down like a pack of cards, not when she’s shunned by her own mother when she returns home and not at the end when she finally settles into a life of loneliness.

Now, the funny thing is that for her part Aishwarya sobs her eyes out from the very beginning, up until the very end. She simpers and whimpers and yet you’re just not moved.

In contrast, you’re reminded of Rekha who in the earlier film suffers in silence all along, holding back her tears till the very end, thus building up to a big climatic moment when your heart goes out to her.

In the new film, Umrao’s sad life story is narrated in flashback by Aishwarya herself who puts on her heavy voice and punctuates her story with sniffles.

If Umrao Jaan fails then it’s because it’s a placidly told story without either passion or pathos. It’s so matter-of-fact actually that you just sit there in your seat in numbed silence waiting for the lights to go back on.

The only real feeling you’re overcome with is boredom because Umrao Jaan is not so much a film as it a series of songs strung together by a few scenes here and there.

The romantic scenes between Abhishek and Aishwarya are so childish, you yawn through their bedroom banter. And that drunken scene of Abhishek’s in which he reveals to Aishwarya that he’s been banished from his father’s home is just unintentionally hilarious.

Of the main actors, Sunil Shetty is horribly miscast as the dacoit-in-nawab’s clothing, he performs his one significant scene with the intensity of a light bulb.

Meanwhile, Shabana Azmi hams it up as Khanum Jaan, the owner of the brothel, a role she plays so camp, that you’re almost embarrassed for her. Then there’s Abhishek Bachchan, who’s mostly stiff, but he’s also saddled with a badly written character because you don’t know if they want him to play the gallant hero of the piece, or the spineless guy who can’t take a stand.

And finally, as Ameeran, the girl who’s turned into the dazzling Umrao Jaan, Aishwarya Rai is listless and ineffective. Her character lacks any depth whatsoever and she fails to engage you in her story. She dances like a dream, but where Rekha brought sex appeal to that role, Aishwarya brings vacant stares.

Despite the eye-pleasing camerawork and some hummable songs, this film is one big bore. At a running time of three long hours, the movie is far too indulgent and often feels like a dose of slow poison.

It’s a big thumbs down for JP Dutta’s Umrao Jaan. For everyone who criticised the director’s last film LOC for being way too long and way too boring, guys you ain’t seen nothing yet. Honestly, iss Umrao mein koi Jaan nahin!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

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